AUSTIN LUCAS – A NEW HOME IN THE OLD WORLD

A NEW HOME IN THE OLD WORLD

The title for this album couldn’t be more apropos for my life at the moment. You see my last job had me so burned out that I couldn’t even write about music! I got handed a new gig on a silver platter back in a part of my field that I truly love and I figured that the latest from Austin Lucas would be the perfect thing to talk about on my return to 9B!

As an unashamed fanboy of Mr. Lucas I love this album as much, if not more, than his previous work and just so I can get it out of the way it is, beyond a shadow of doubt, Essential Listening (Yeah AIV already said this but damn it I get to say it as well). The addition of a full band to Austin’s lyrics and voice is fucking amazing. I have never got to see Austin play with anyone else, like Two Cow Garage, as he is known to do so the fullness of sound was something new for me. I would have loved this album if it had been sparse like the previous few have but I don’t know if I would loved it any more. Every single track on this album is amazing.

Musically my favorite track has got to be “Thunder Rail” what with the electric guitar, beat and structure it’s a bad ass track. My overall favorite is “Darkness Out Of Me” which made me take a good hard look at my life and desires in relation to my kids and their hopes and dreams. That’s not likely what Austin was thinking about when he wrote it but that is what is so beautiful about art: It takes on a life of its own when it is released in to the wild and becomes something different to each person who consumes it. Even with all the “new” on the album, the backing band, the different musical style, it is 100% Austin Lucas and it is everything you should expect from him. If you have any soul in your pitiful mortal body you can’t not buy this album…

These are my favorite three tacks, so far, and are subject to change:
Austin Lucas – Darkness Out Of Me
Austin Lucas – Thunder Rail
Austin Lucas – The Grain

You can stream the whole damn thing (and you should) right here on 9B, at the end of AIV’s post about the album. And you damn well should go buy it right now.

HA HA TONKA – DEATH OF A DECADE

Ha Ha Tonka and Bloodshot Records have teamed up again to release Ha Ha Tonka’s third album, Death Of A Decade. With Death Of A Decade, Ha Ha Tonka entered a 200 year old barn in New Paltz, NY with producer Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, The Felice Brothers, The Walkmen) and emerged with something equally timeless.

Death Of A Decade doesn’t stray too far from the band’s patented sound established on Buckle in the Bible Belt and Novel Sounds Of The Nouveau South. The signature pounding drums, stomping feet and plucky mandolin all serve as a backdrop to this band’s biggest gift, their voices and harmonies.

This is easily the best album this Ozarkian (is that even a word?) quartet has released to date, as well as one of the best albums so far this year. Judging from their placement at Bloodshot Records’ SxSW showcase, the label knows what they have in these guys and are trying to push them.

While doing a little research before writing this, I saw where the album had received a lukewarm review on a typically “indie” music blog, and while glancing through the comments I saw one that said, “Fuck You. This is a 5 star album! Period.” I can’t find too much fault with that comment as the album is certainly finding a home on the 9B Essential Listening list.

Ha Ha Tonka – Made Example Of
Ha Ha Tonka – Usual Suspects
Ha Ha Tonka – No Great Harm

Ha Ha Tonka’s Official Site, Ha Ha Tonka on Facebook, Buy Death Of A Decade

On a side note: If you ever get a chance to see these guys live, do it! The sheer joy that comes from the stage when they’re playing is almost intoxicating.

JASON ISBELL – HERE WE REST

It has been over four years since Jason Isbell and The Drive-By Truckers went their separate ways. While it might become tiring for both camps, I think the fact that nobody can write about one without mentioning the other proves that the fan base has been keeping a mental scorecard since the split. There have been a few strikes and a couple of tip ball fouls, but neither camp has been able to hit that home run the fans having been begging for. Well, I’m here to tell you that in my opinion Here We Rest is a solo shot touching down somewhere up in the cheap seats. Home-fucking-run.

I’m also here to tell you that I’ve probably reached the end of my “readily available baseball analogy” list.

If you read Jason’s website, you see that “place” is the central character on Here We Rest. This is a nuance that I, honestly, didn’t pick up on, but knowing it has really made the album feel even more cohesive than it did before I learned it. If you look around the internet you see plenty of reviewers still comparing Jason to his DBT material and bemoaning the fact that the album isn’t stacked with 11 different takes of “Never Gonna Change” or “Outfit”. Pitchfork said, “he’s now logged as much time as a solo artist as he did with his former band, Isbell sounds he’s still finding his voice” to which I can’t disagree more. I think Here We Rest shows Jason more comfortable than ever as a solo artist. I think with Here We Rest we’re finally seeing Jason make a record instead of making a certain kind of record.

Place may be the central theme of the album, but characters drive the record and those characters mirror the people living in Anytown, USA right now. The desperate, the drunk, the shell shocked and the invisible. Character songs with sharp detail have always been Jason’s strong suit and he kills it on Here We Rest. So, I propose that the print and internet media (myself included) finally let Jason out from under his own DBT-cast shadow, ‘cause he’s earned it.

I’m sorry if this was too long and rambling. A cliff notes version goes like this: Jason Isbell has released a new album. It’s got 11 tracks that crush. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. The more I like it, the more I think it could on top of the year’s end version of the Essential Listening list.

Jason Isbell – Alabama Pines
Jason Isbell – Codeine
Jason Isbell – Stopping By

Jason Isbell’s Official Site, Jason Isbell on Twitter, Buy Here We Rest

MICHAEL DEAN DAMRON – PLEA FROM A GHOST

This album has been out for a few weeks now and I probably should have already written about it. Truth is, sometimes an album makes me nervous. I start to stress over how I am gonna explain how good an album is and how much I like it, and before I know it I am suffering from the curse of a blank page. Well today, I’ve decided that even a failed effort is superior to no effort, and with that in mind I’d like to talk to y’all about Michael Dean Damron’s new album, Plea From A Ghost.

It’s a rare thing when a songwriter can writes something that conveys its emotions so clearly that not only can it make you feel something, it can convey with perfect clarity the feelings that songwriter was feeling when he/she wrote it. A song is a rarity, an album is almost unheard of and a songbook, which Damron seems to be amassing, requires a self-awareness and willingness to expose oneself that I simply can not relate to. When you listen to Plea From A Ghost, it’s no wonder Micah Schnabel (Two Cow Garage) and Michael Dean Damron are such good friends. They’re essentially the same artist, separated by a few decades worth of life experience, breakups, breakdowns, whiskey and pain.

On Plea From A Ghost, Michael gives you equal parts rock and roll record and confession. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Mike as a soloist and it’s easily Essential Listening. I just wish I could do the album justice.

Michael Dean Damron – Clean
Michael Dean Damron – Dolls
Michael Dean Damron – Dark

Michael Dean Damron’s Official site, Michael Dean Damron on Facebook, Buy Plea From A Ghost